This watercolour is based on a drawing by the architect James Hakewill (1778 – 1843). He had commissioned Turner to translate his sketches of Italy into a series of prints for his book 'A Picturesque Tour of Italy', published in 1820. Turner’s watercolour demonstrates his ability to encompass the grandest landscape ideas on the smallest scale.
Turner had not visited Italy when he made this watercolour. He may have been inspired to do so after Hakewill’s commission. He spent the summer of 1819 touring the country, including Naples.